SPECIAL FEATURE: With Promotion In The Bag & 125 Years Under The Belt, Donaghadee’s immensely significant season 10/11 sees them leaving Q2 behind to enter the challenge of Q1 RUGBY ~ PART 1

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With Promotion In The Bag & 125 Years Under The Belt, Donaghadee’s immensely significant season 10/11 sees them leaving Q2 behind to enter the challenge of Q1 RUGBY

We review with them here taking a closer look at a club that is 125 years old and has just achieved I XV promotion to the highest level of Junior rugby in Ulster.

Part 1 of these 2 features focuses on the history and 125th Anniversary of the club – Enjoy! Part 2 covers the 2010/11 Promotion winning Season.


To begin we caught up with Bill Allen from one of the stalwart families of the club and asked him what does it mean to be a Dee rugby man

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Highs, lows and everything in between characterises this year at the Dee, but being their 125th anniversary we cannot help saying the same of all those years of rugby. This year saw the publication of their 125th Anniversary book and continuous celebration throughout the club of this momentus milestone. History, stories of years gone by, the emergence of the club around 1885, the first games against Bangor, Artisans, Cooke, joining the IRFU, leaving the IRFU and joining again for continuous memebership since 1902 and the weekly match day focus during the season allow for analysis of individual weeks and then a larger view of a season but also with a club that has been in existence now in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

This medium of the internet allows us to appreciate the immense connection we have with the past and also the enormous change that has taken place, by the very fact that we have the emergence of a significant web based presence of the Dee allowing all our friends and family overseas to share in the weekly journey of the Dee.

The History of Donagahdee Rugby Club is mixed with the emergence of rugby in Ireland and as their brand new 125th Anniversary book recalls…..the formation of Dee….”was only thirteen years after Henry Wallace Doveton Dunlop rented fields at Shelbourne in Dublin and began what later became known as the Lansdowne Road Rugby Stadium…. local clubs were sprouting up all over. Some like Bangor, Artisans, Belmont, Crossgar, Cookstown, Fortwilliam, Knock, Mount and Sydenham were destined to have a short life, whilst others like near-neighbours Holywood and Bangor have been around as long as the Donaghadee club.

A Team shot From 1906

These near-neighbours of Donagahdee’s have led fairly nomadic existences in their long histories as pitches ceased to be available, but Donaghadee RFC has been all of its 125 years (with a short temporary tour to Ballyhay in the 1970s) at the same ground on the Newtownards Road….. this field has hosted rugby football since those days when it was known only as the field behind the Parish Rectory right up to 2001!
Now, 125 years, two World Wars, a clutch of Ulster Cups and other trophies and perhaps five generations of players later Donaghdee is still fielding three teams proudly clad in their red and green playing in kit almost every Saturday in the season.


Lets compare a match report from 1885 and match report from 2011

1885 in the Belfast Newsletter the following exerpt was printed of a game between Dee & Bangor

…..the gist of the game story is that a Bangor player was “charged by the Donaghadee captain and knocked into touch” and “shortly before half-time McGrattan picked up [the ball] behind the scrummage and, running on, passed to Hamil, who secured a try for Donaghadee. The captain quickly converted it into a goal.”

now in 2011 a recent report exerpt reads as follows,

“Then just before half-time the red and green machine charged forward again with their intent crystal clear. The hard-driving Donaghadee pack released Andrew Findlater with some yards to go, and he crashed over for the important 16-15 Donaghadee lead that gave them any encouragement they might have needed going into the break”

Donaghadee’s captain, Bob Foster, being carried on the shoulders of the two Rev. Watsons to receive the Junior Cup in 1958

It is clear that nothing much has changed between now and then.

Hard fought physical battles, where the battle is won or lost by a combination of brute force and graceful precise timing and passing of the ball. The finest skills of co-ordination and the brute force of gladiators.
And yet the fraternity, the comaradery, the companionship, the community, the fact that we knock bells out of each other and then make up in the bar afterwards is quite immense. The home crowd getting behind their men and not just wearing their jersey but more times than not its actually wives, children, mothers and brothers in that crowd, and in fact its probably the same jersey their father wore!!!!!


Donaghadee is one of those great clubs that is a community and this year they are not only celebrating 125 years of community but also promotion to Qulaifying 1 rugby. the following report is the offivcial Donaghdee report on the celrbation day:


Because of the long Antarctic break this season the Donaghadee club’s First XV have has been in a non-stop three week period striving to complete a daunting overcrowded end of season run while they are still in serious contention for promotion and League honours. However, as long ago as September a game had been initiated by club stalwart John Blewitt and endorsed by the club’s Council that would jointly mark the one and a quarter centuries of rugby football in Donaghadee and hopefully make a decent contribution to the always insufficient budget of the Irish Rugby Union’s Charitable Trust.
The date of Saturday, 16 April had been chosen for its likelihood of being in a quiet period at end of season. In the frantic rush of fixtures any and all obstacles had to be overcome, because somehow this game just had to be fitted in. Mick Quinn, of the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Charitable Trust (it seems better to use the full title) brought a strong core of this season’s highly successful Lansdowne Club First XV to Donaghadee fresh from their own promotion season. A number of former DRFC Captains, Ulster representatives and others swelled the numbers. The game itself was very entertaining, well officiated by the Donaghadee club’s USRFR referees John Coyle, Brian McLawrence and Frank Humphreys. Some of the Donaghadee squad showed that the club well deserves their successes so far this season, and some of the stylish and even awesome touches from the Senior level Lansdowne players were both encouraging and thrilling.

In a festival-style game the result is not very important, but for the purists the strong Lansdowne squad came out as 36-27 victors. A most welcome crowd around the pitch enjoyed the game very much. Club President Bill Boomer had no hesitation in circumnavigating the pitch a few times to cajole any and every contribution he could get to aid the Trust.
Later in the evening almost 300 people gathered in the beautifully decorated marquee where they enjoyed the magnificent fare provided by caterers Posh Nosh at the Commemorative Dinner. The Donaghadee club, its members and guests felt privileged that this venerable club was honoured on the occasion by the presence of a true rugby legend, Mike Gibson. The club is very proud of the Gibson connection having had the grandfather of the 5-times Lions icon as their Chairman and later Life-President through the years before and after the last War.
Pre-prandially and at the dinner tables the crack and rugby fellowship continued. Some club members unashamedly strong-armed anyone in sight to buy ballot tickets for the Trust, almost halting the serving of dinner until there were no tickets left.
The meal itself was a triumph, and as coffee was being enjoyed, the assembled company was entertained by the popular Mick Quinn. Acting as the evening’s M.C. he set the high quality tone and then introduced guest speakers Colin Barkley and Noel McClarnon.

There was also a sealed-envelope collection for the Charitable Trust and Mr Barkley conducted an auction of attractive rugby memorabilia such as autographed Ireland and Ulster shirts and an interesting framed original document. This was the commentator’s information sheet used for an Ireland v. France International by the legend that was Bill McLaren – a collector’s item for any rugby fan. After a preliminary count, the club Chairman has asked that it be published that the touchline collection, the ballot and the auction of rugby memorabilia added up to over £3000.00 for the Charitable Trust.
After a gradual wind-down of mostly personal reminiscences in small groups the evening came to an end with about three hundred rugby men and women gradually dwindling home in their taxis, hopefully with a store of fond memories of an excellent evening.
Apportioning credit is always dangerous. Of course David Monson’s DRFC Council were always involved in the enterprise, but special mention must be given to Hans Arthur whose expertise in such matters is only matched by his attention to detail and his unflagging energy. First XV Team Manager Peter Matthews’s grasp of nitty-gritty particulars regarding numbers, publicity and the pulling together of a staggering amount of detail made this difficult project a great success. John Blewitt’s determination that DRFC would host the affair and Mick Quinn’s efforts to assemble an entertaining visitors’ team, Cathy Angus and her amazing staff and the many others, often unsung, who presented the pitch, surrounds, clubhouse, electricity and PA supply etc. in such attractive order must at least get a collective thank-you from all present at what was a marvellous 10 or 12 hours of rugby football fellowship.

There are times when rugby stops and we think of other things. This season we saw the passing of true friend of Donaghadee Cois Beukes, his mark and the mark of 125 years of proud tradition is held aloft this year by this promotion winning side who will now compete in the Qualifying 1 league – the pinnacle of Junior rugby.

We finish this short tour with some pictures from the 125th Anniversary book. The book is a splendid and very very well produced history of the club right up to this season. It is 100 pages every one a joy to read. To purchase a copy CLICK HERE and they are only £6.95 + postage.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at The Dee for making InTouch Rugby feel welcome and it is a pleasure to cover such a wonderful club.
We hope you have enjoyed this short review and look forward to lots more throughout the summer as they prepare for the 2011/12 season their 126th!

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